“You two will make amazing husbands.”
Alec looks up from his paperwork, realizing that he’s been unconsciously twirling his ring while reading. He didn’t hear Clary come into his office, but she’s leaning against the door frame, a small smile on her face.
They haven’t had time to talk properly since the announcement of Alec and Magnus’ wedding, with Jonathan wreaking havoc all over the world. But Jonathan is dead now, thanks to Clary.
“Thank you,” he grins at her sincerely. “I know it’s a little rushed, but with everything that’s happened, we decided we didn’t want to wait for the next catastrophe. At this pace, we’ll never find time to plan a proper wedding.”
“That’s fair,” Clary snorts. “We never seem to get a break.”
They’re still reeling from the deaths of several hundred Shadowhunters, just days ago. Alec has done his best to go to as many Rites of Mourning as he could, especially for people he knew, but even he couldn’t make it to every one of them. After being surrounded by so much grief, he’s more than ready for a slice of happiness. Magnus is in a frenzy preparing everything for the wedding tomorrow, and Alec can’t wait.
“I’m sure it’s going to be beautiful,” Clary continues, walking into the office fully. She closes the door behind her, and Alec frowns. “I wanted to talk to you about something.”
“Of course,” Alec gestures for her to sit on the couch, while he stands up and comes around his desk. He sits down beside her. “What is it?”
Clary looks down at her lap, biting her lip, and Alec feels dread pooling his stomach. She’s so uncharacteristically quiet that it can only mean bad news.
“I haven’t told anyone else yet,” she starts. “I don’t want to ask you to keep it a secret, but I can’t carry it on my own anymore.”
Alec places a hesitant hand on her arm. They rarely touch, but it seems appropriate. “Clary, what’s wrong?”
“I saw my mom the other day,” Clary breathes out.
Alec stares in shock. He lets go of Clary’s arm and glances down at his hand, the same hand that once ripped Jocelyn Fairchild’s heart out of her chest. Even now, almost two years later, he doesn’t feel clean of that. He can still feel the blood, see her face in his nightmares, Clary’s face accusing him. He has plenty of newer traumas to dream about, and it’s started to fade, but it’s not gone.
“What?” he croaks out. Is Clary having the same nightmares? Is she seeing things? It doesn’t match the way she said it, with that intense conviction in her eyes.
Clary’s eyes widen like she just realized how that sounded. “Not like… She was a...ghost, maybe? I don’t know. She felt real. She said she was sent by the Angels to give me a message.”
“A message,” Alec repeats slowly.
“I know how it sounds, but I think that’s the truth,” Clary says. “Because what she told me would happen...it’s started.”
“Clary, I don’t understand.”
She closes her eyes, her face screwed up in anguish. “She said that my rune ability was against the wish of the Angels and that if I kept using it, they’d take it away. They’d take everything away. Everything that makes me a Shadowhunter.”
Alec blinks for a moment, trying to make sense of it. “When was that?” he asks.
“The day after we got back from Edom.”
“You used a rune to kill Jonathan,” Alec breathes.
Clary looks up at his face then and nods minutely. She rolls up her sleeve, showing off unmarred skin where Alec saw a Silent Brother draw the angelic rune just a year ago. “It’s already started,” she murmurs. “They’re fading. One by one.”
“So you’re being...deruned? No,” Alec realizes. It’s different. Deruning is a Nephilim punishment, a human one. It strips them of their runes, but not of their identity, of their blood. “It’s more than that, isn’t it?”
“I think…” Clary hesitates, tears falling down her cheeks. “I think when it’s over, I’m going to be mundane. Fully. Without the Sight, and any memories of the Shadow World.”
“Fuck, Clary,” Alec mutters. “There must be something we can do—”
“I don’t think we can go against the Angels’ wish, Alec.”
Alec closes his eyes, his mind desperately running through possibilities and scenarios. He doesn’t see a solution. She’s right, the Angels’ wish is untouchable, they all know that. There’s no army to fight, no law to circumvent, no obstacle to overcome.
He pinches the bridge of his nose and feels the knot in his throat grow until it’s nearly choking him. He’s not ready to lose another friend, not now. And Jace… Fuck. Jace will be devastated. Izzy, too. None of them can take another disaster.
He takes in Clary’s red and puffy eyes, the way she’s looking at him like a lifeline. She’s become a friend, over the years. They didn’t start that way, but they’ve grown close. She’s the person closest to Alec outside of his family and Magnus. He blinks back tears.
“You’ll still be alive,” he murmurs. “But—”
“I’ll forget you. All of this,” she gestures around them. “Everything. I’m scared, Alec.”
Alec holds out his hand, and she grips it tightly in hers. He covers them with his other hand. “How long?” he asks.
“I don’t know. I only have two runes left, so not long. Tomorrow, maybe the day after.”
Alec closes his eyes. She might not even make it to the wedding. “Fuck,” he repeats.
“I don’t want to forget,” Clary murmurs, sobbing.
“It’s going to be okay,” Alec says softly. Neither of them believes it.
At least she’ll be okay, most likely. If she forgets everything, loses her angel blood, she’ll be just another mundane. She’ll be safe. Alec tries hard to hang onto that and not on the pain to come.
Because if he even lets himself imagine it, he’ll crumble.
“Why tell me first?” he asks.
Clary hesitates, biting her lip. Her sobs have receded, though tears are still running down her cheeks. She sniffles. “You’re in charge of the Institute, so you need to know. For, you know, patrols and stuff. I didn’t want you to be caught by surprise.”
Alec swallows, touched by her foresight. It’s hard to remember sometimes that she’s the same girl who once trampled on every rule without care. She still doesn’t follow orders blindly, but she’s come to care about the Institute and its Shadowhunters like they’re her family.
And in a few days, none of that growth will matter anymore. She’ll be gone. Alec wants to retch at the injustice of it all. She’s come so far, and this punishment is truly unfair.
But then, why should the Angels be fairer than the Nephilim? Alec once sat in this same office waiting for his sister to be convicted of treason and deruned. He watched his mother be stripped of her runes and her identity. Clary herself was sentenced to death for bringing Jace back to life.
They both know all too well that life isn’t fair.
“There’s another reason,” Clary says after a moment of silence. “I wanted to give you something. It’s a wedding gift, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to hold on until then, so I wanted to give it to you now.”
She pulls back her hands and takes a folded piece of paper out of her pocket. Alec carefully unfolds it, expecting some kind of drawing, but what jumps out at him is a rune, carefully inked onto the thick paper. One he doesn’t recognize.
“I can still create runes, even if I don’t dare activate them,” Clary explains. “It will work, I know it.”
“What is it?” Alec asks. It has similar elements to the Alliance rune, Clary’s most beautiful invention to date, but it’s also different, rounder, and more complex.
“I didn’t give it a name,” Clary says. “You can name it if you want. Or keep it to yourself and never use it. It’s your choice.”
“You’re rambling,” Alec says, almost amused despite the gravity of the moment.
“Sorry. It works kind of like the Alliance rune, but it requires a strong emotional bond. There are elements of the Wedding rune and the Parabatai rune in it.”
Alec tilts his head, and he can recognize it now, the familiar runes almost intertwined with each other.
“Shared between two people,” Clary says slowly, “it should bind souls and bodies together. You’d share blood, powers, emotions. And it’s permanent.”
Alec’s eyes widen as he takes in the implications of that. “Sharing powers…”
“Yes. If you do it with Magnus, you should be able to share his eternal youth.”
“Clary, this is—” Alec breathes, unable to formulate his overwhelming gratitude. “It’s an incredible gift.”
Clary swallows. “I wanted you to have it before—” she gestures vaguely. “I didn’t talk about it earlier because I wasn’t sure I could make a rune that powerful, but I know this one will work.”
Alec closes his eyes briefly to clear them of tears and pulls her into a hug. She melts into his chest, sobbing. “I want you to know that I’m incredibly grateful for everything you did for us,” he says over her shoulder. “We owe you so much.”
“Even if I didn’t obey the rules?” she hiccups. “I caused you a lot of trouble.”
“But you saved us over and over too,” Alec says. “You brought Jace back to life. You’re the reason we got Magnus back. You’ve been through so much in the past few years, but you’re still here coming up with the most incredible gift for my wedding, even when you’re running out of time…”
“I can’t tell Jace and Izzy,” Clary sobs into his shoulder. “Izzy just asked me to be her parabatai. And Jace… I can’t say goodbye. It’s too hard.”
Alec hugs her tighter. “It’s okay. I’ll tell them for you if you want. Anything you need.”
“I love them. I love you. I love you all so much. To think that I won’t remember anything…”
Alec runs a hand through her hair, gently. “We’ll make sure that you’re alright. And… I’ll keep looking. Maybe there’s something we can do to make the Angels let you come back. If not, maybe we can figure out how to bring you back ourselves. I won’t give up.”
“Thank you,” Clary murmurs. “Take care of Jace for me. He’ll need you.”
“I will. I promise.”
They hold each other until Clary’s sobs subside, and she’s able to compose herself. Alec keeps a tight grip on his own emotions, even though they threaten to spill over. He’s long learned to compartmentalize, and he can’t afford to break down in the middle of a workday. But before he goes back home to Magnus that night, he takes out the folded sheet of paper again and studies it until his sight goes blurry and he has tears running down his cheeks. He goes to the roof with his bow, working his anger into the arrows he sends out in the sky, and he runs to Magnus’ loft without a speed run, his lungs burning.
When Magnus asks him what’s wrong, he can only shake his head and hug him tight.
He’s dancing with Magnus when Clary leaves. He’s tried to keep an eye on her most of the night, once the ceremony was done, but he misses her running out and only realizes she’s gone when Jace starts to look for her.
The party is coming to an end. Alec excuses himself to Magnus for a while and he tracks Clary down, two blocks away, where he finds her looking around her in confusion.
“Who are you?” she asks when he calls her name. “Don’t come any closer!”
Alec sighs, the knot in his throat threatening to explode, and he raises his hands in a gesture of peace. “I don’t mean any harm,” he says. “You just seemed lost.”
“I’m—” She looks around again, frantically. “I don’t know where I am.”
“I’ll call you a cab, okay?” Alec offers. He falters, realizing that Clary doesn’t have a home to go to anymore. Jocelyn’s dead, and Clary will have to suffer the loss of her mother all over again. “Is there anyone you can call? A friend?”
“Yeah,” Clary says. She pats her dress. “I’ve...I think I lost my phone.”
“I’ll lend you mine,” Alec says. “I’m Alec, by the way.”
Alec forces the pain away and attempts a smile. “Nice to meet you.”
“I told you you’d make amazing husbands.”
Alec looks up from his paperwork in surprise, and he’s overtaken by a strong sense of deja-vu. It isn’t the same office or even the same city, but the way Clary is leaning against the door frame reminds him exactly of the day before she left. She seems aware of the parallel, grinning at him conspiratorially.
“You did,” he smiles. “Welcome back, Clary.”
She looks different, and yet the same. Her skin is free of runes, and she has a new haircut that makes her look older, but there’s the same light in her eyes. It’s been a year. A year of Jace moping around the Institute, his pain a constant tug on the parabatai bond. A year of missing her, more than Alec never thought he would.
Jace called Alec just hours after Clary recognized him at her show, three weeks ago, but Alec hasn’t been able to join them in New York yet. She regained her memories quickly, in only a few days, once it started. Jace and Izzy have been keeping him updated.
“So that’s where it went,” Clary says, staring at the large abstract painting on the wall. “I thought it was you and Magnus, but I wasn’t sure. It’s hard to reconcile those memories together.”
Alec looks up at it, at the signature that looks suspiciously like a rune in the shape of a C and F in the bottom right corner. “It was us,” he confirms. They’ve been to every single one of her school’s shows, buying multiple paintings while having to pretend they didn’t know her. “We have more of them at home. Magnus felt it was a way to keep you with us. He’s missed you a lot.”
“I know,” Clary says. “We had lunch a couple of days ago. He didn’t tell you?”
Alec laughs. “He did. He recounted every minute of it. He was excited.”
Clary tilts her head playfully. “Is he the only one who missed me?”
“I’m pretty sure Jace thought of you once or twice. Izzy, too,” Alec smirks. “Of course we all missed you. Come here,” he stands up and opens his arms.
She bounces up to him and hugs him tight around the middle, the top of her head barely reaching his shoulders. Alec laughs and leans into the embrace. “I’ve missed you,” he murmurs.
“I’d say I’ve missed you too, but—” Clary shrugs, pulling away to look up at him. “I felt like something was missing, the whole time. And ugh, I didn’t remember you were so tall.”
Alec raises an eyebrow. “You didn’t remember me at all,” he deadpans. “More seriously, I meant to come to see you, but things have been hectic over here.”
“I heard you made Inquisitor. That’s amazing, Alec!”
“Yeah, it’s, uh, very recent,” Alec blushes. He still hasn’t learned to take a compliment, but his promotion is something he can take pride in. It’s an incredible testimony of how far the Clave has come in just a couple of years. Not so long ago, a Shadowhunter who chose to marry a Downworlder would have been cast out or at least kept carefully out of any politically significant position. And now he’s here, barely turned twenty-five, in the second highest Clave office. “Magnus is the High Warlock of Alicante now,” he adds. Because of that, the Clave asking his husband to help Downworlders move back into Idris after centuries of fleeing the Shadowhunters’ increasing restrictions, is something Alec will never not be proud of.
“You haven’t changed,” Clary observes, smiling. “I was worried you’d turned into a high and mighty prick, now that you’re such a big name.”
Alec rolls his eyes and snorts. “I’m not Jace,” he reminds her. “Come on, let’s sit down. Do you have some time? I can take my lunch break, there’s a restaurant around the corner.”
“Sure,” Clary nods. “I have an appointment with the Silent Brothers to determine if my body’s ready to take runes again, but I came early to see you.”
“Great. We have a lot of catching up to do.”
“Did you use it? The rune?” Clary leans in over her dessert in curiosity. They’ve been catching up for the past hour in a booth at the back of the restaurant, and it almost feels like they saw each other yesterday, for how comfortable and easy it is to get back into their banter. Alec has missed this.
He leans back in his seat, his stomach full. “Yeah,” he says, placing a hand over his heart where the rune is located. “We exchanged them two months ago.”
“Does it work?” Clary asks with a spark in her eyes.
Alec turns his hand palm up over the table and focuses. It doesn’t come easily to him, not yet. He’s been training with Magnus, but magic is much harder than it looks, so they’ve been focusing on controlling his random outbursts whenever he’s stressed more than developing his active magic.
Blue strands of light encircle his hand briefly, leaving in their wake a yellow rose. He hands it to Clary, who gives him a wide smile and turns it in her hands to observe it. “Wow!” she exclaims. “Yer a wizard, Alec.”
Alec bites on his finger to contain his laughter. He’s learned far too many mundane cultural references through osmosis with Simon and weekly movie nights at the loft, while Clary was gone.
“We had my blood and magic analyzed by the researchers at the Spiral Labyrinth, and they say I’m immortal too,” he says. “Or more exactly, tied to Magnus’ immortality. But since he’s tied to my life force too, it makes us functionally invincible. Someone would have to kill us both at the same time for it to stick.”
“That’s amazing,” Clary breathes. “More than I even thought of when I made the rune.”
“We have a lot to thank you for,” Alec reaches out to pat her hand. “More than you know.”
“What do you mean?”
“This rune allowed us to make huge strides in magical theory, and specifically angelic magic. It’s part of the reason why I’ve been so busy because I’m also working with our researchers on several projects.” Alec pauses, realizing he’s getting ahead of himself and Clary can’t follow. “Okay, so when you gave me the rune, I told Magnus about it right after our wedding. He was blown away that you would give us such a gift, by the way. I’m sure he’ll want to thank you himself.”
Clary smiles. “He’ll have plenty of time for that, now that I’m back for good,” she says.
Alec nods. “Since you said it was permanent, we took our time to make the decision. Immortality is not something to be taken lightly. For me, it wasn’t even really a question, but Magnus wanted me to be sure that it was what I wanted.”
“That makes sense,” Clary nods.
“We also wanted to make sure that the rune would work the way you said it did, that it wouldn’t have any…unforeseen side effects.”
Clary frowns. “I never had a problem with my runes.”
“Honestly, Clary, you used them mostly in emergencies, with no regard for safety. Maybe it was warranted then, but this time we weren’t willing to gamble both of your lives on it. Especially when it came to using a rune on a warlock.”
“Of course,” Clary says sheepishly. “Ugh, I was rather impulsive, wasn’t I?”
“You could say that,” Alec grumbles, remembering all the times her hasty decisions landed him in hot water with his parents or the Clave. “Anyway, we researched the hell out of it. Every text we could find on rune creations, on the wedding rune and its variations, we even looked into warlock archives that hadn’t been opened for centuries. And that’s how I figured it out.”
“Figured what out?”
“How you created runes. And why the Angels hated it.”
“This is what we’re working on,” Alec says, letting Clary into the lab. “It’s all confidential, but since you’re the one who started it all, I figured you deserve to know. And I’m the one who decides who is read in on it anyway.”
Clary looks around in wonder. The room has some of the equipment she’d expect in a lab and some she doesn’t recognize, but what attracts her gaze is the large corkboard in the middle, covered with sheets of paper.
On each of them is a rune. A rune she’s never seen before.
“They’re all new runes?” she asks.
“Yes,” Alec answers, leaning his back against the wall. “What clued me in was how you used elements of several existing runes to create a new one. I copied down every rune from the Gray Book and all of your runes and I started looking for patterns. We’ve always known that some basic elemental runes existed, but not that they could be combined. It took me a few months, but I came up with this.” He points at a rune at the top left of the board, which Clary can see is based on the Deflect rune, with two additional strikes going through it.
“Of course you would,” she mutters. “That’s some kind of armor rune, isn’t it?”
Alec smiles. “As it turns out, everyone can create runes, at least in theory. It’s very hard and requires a strong theoretical background unless you’re named Clary Fairchild and you have additional angel blood. Or maybe just an amazing instinct, I don’t know. Yes, this one imitates armored plates around your body. It’s more effective at stopping blows than the regular Deflect rune, but it doesn’t stop people from tracking you.”
“That’s amazing,” Clary says.
“As soon as I saw it work, I told Magnus and we worked on it together. It’s the biggest discovery about angelic magic that we’ve made in centuries.”
“Why did no one find it before?”
Alec pushes away from the wall to face her fully. “Soon after I used this rune for the first time, I started experiencing the same thing you did: push back from the Angels. Even drawing normal runes became harder. We got scared that I might be deruned like you were, so Magnus and I decided to go ahead with your rune, bind ourselves together. If I had magic, the Angels couldn’t take away my Sight or my memories.”
“That sounds like a plan me or Jace would have come up with, not you,” Clary quips.
“Yeah, well, things were evolving quickly. I could barely hold a stele at that point,” Alec says, frowning.
Clary blinks. “Wow, the Angels really were angry.”
“The bond fixed it. I’m out of reach now, they can’t do anything to me. And now that I knew what I was looking for, I found accounts of other people to whom it happened, who lost their Nephilim blood because of this. You have to read between the lines because it became taboo to even talk about it, but it looks like the Angels don’t want us to have this ability. Jonathan Shadowhunter probably had it, he had more pure Angel blood than you and he’s the one who created all the original runes, but since then, no Shadowhunter has been able to create new runes. Until you.”
“But I got punished for it,” Clary says, wringing her hands. Her memories of the last few days before she was stripped of her runes don’t feel fresh like the events happened yesterday, but they also don’t feel like they’re a year old. She can still see her mother’s ghost, or whatever it was, telling her what would happen if she kept using new runes.
It’s been a year, but without her memories, she hasn’t had a chance to process all the trauma, all the emotions.
“Yeah,” Alec sighs. “You certainly didn’t deserve it, but you were.”
Clary shakes her head, trying to get rid of the darker thoughts. “Obviously you didn’t stop there,” she says, gesturing at the board. “So what did you do?”
“Well, since my warlock blood protects me, I started thinking about who else might be protected. I reached out to Helen Blackthorn, you remember her?”
“Oh, she’s half-Seelie, isn’t she?”
“Yes. She and her brother. They were both willing to try working with us, especially since Magnus and I were fairly sure we could stop the process if we were wrong and the Angels were able to harm them. As it turns out, they did fine. So I found more Shadowhunters with Downworlder blood. At this point, we have eight people creating new runes, including me.”
“That’s incredible,” Clary says. She looks closer at the runes on the board. She can instinctively tell their purpose, which is proof that her ability hasn’t gone away. Alec lets her observe them for a while in silence, and she thinks she can discern a pattern in there like the runes have a signature. “That’s yours,” she points at a rune in the middle of the board, once she’s fairly sure she’s understanding her instincts right. “And this one.”
“You’re right,” Alec says, sounding impressed.
“You have a...tell,” Clary smirks, looking at him over her shoulder. “They feel distinctively you. I can probably find Magnus’ too, but I’d need a place to start since I’ve never seen him draw a rune.”
“Here,” Alec points to one on the right side of the board. “Can you tell because of your rune ability, or because you’re an artist?”
“Maybe a bit of both,” Clary shrugs. “I’m not sure. I should have known this was Magnus’,” she laughs when she looks at the rune. The flourish and artistic strokes look exactly like something Magnus would go for.
“We definitely need you in our group,” Alec mutters, jotting down a note on a pad on the desk beside him.
“I don’t know,” Clary says, taking a step back away from the board. “I don’t want to tempt fate. I don’t think I could stand to lose my memories again.”
“No, of course,” Alec says. “But I don’t think it would happen.”
“Magnus’ theory is that if enough Shadowhunters start creating runes, the Angels will just have to accept it since they can’t cast us out. Since our wedding, there are more and more mixed Nephilim and Downworlder couples, so there will probably be a whole generation of people with mixed blood. They’ll be able to create runes.”
“What does that have to do with me?” Clary asks.
“I don’t think it was a coincidence that the Angels chose to give you your memories back now. The breakthroughs that we’ve made aren’t going away. I think it’s their way of telling us that they won’t fight us anymore.”
Clary blinks at him, trying to process that idea. She remembers asking Maryse, at the wedding, if the Angels could forgive. The picture of the Angels that Alec paints is cold and calculating, matching with what Clary saw of Raziel — and to some extent, even Ithuriel. What if she wasn’t forgiven, but instead simply reinstated in her rightful place? What if Alec managed the unthinkable, and made the Angels themselves change their minds?
“Is that possible? I mean — wow.”
“Why not?” Alec shrugs.
Clary has a sudden flashback of the Alec she first met, over four years ago, who was terrified of coming out and upsetting the order of things, who was killing himself trying to meet his parents’ expectations. The man standing in front of her now has grown so much, just like Clary has, that they’re barely recognizable. To hear him talking so casually about changing the world-changing immutable laws such as those of the Angels?
But then, they’ve changed so much already, haven’t they? They participated in the destruction of Edom. They defeated the Mother of Demons. They explored and even created whole new sections of magic. Alec and Magnus’ marriage and their careers changed the laws of the Clave and opened the way for so much more.
They’ve already changed the world. So why not a little more, indeed?
Clary jumps at Alec’s neck, making him grunt in surprise. “This is amazing,” she says. “You’re amazing. And I’m so glad I’m back.”
“Me too,” Alec laughs, resting his chin on the top of her head. “Welcome home, Clary.”